In the midst of many proposed budget reallocations within the Federal Government, the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the few agencies that may see a budget increase in fiscal year 2018; albeit a meager six percent.

The Budget request includes increased funding for and extension of the Veterans Choice program, making it easier for eligible veterans to access the medical care they need, without having to travel great distances to receive it.

In total, the President’s 2018 Budget requests $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for VA, a $4.4 billion increase from the 2017 enacted level.  The proposal also requests legislative authority and $3.5 billion in mandatory budget authority in 2018 to continue the Veterans Choice Program.

David Shulkin
“I’m confident this budget is going to reflect the president’s commitment to his ability to deliver on his promises to make veterans care better and stronger.” – David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

So what is this budget intended to accomplish?

1. Ensure that Veterans receive good health care and timely access to services.

Approximately 11 million veterans participate in VA programs. This Budget provides the resources that are essential to ensuring veterans receive the care and support earned through their military.

2. Provide a $4.6 billion increase in discretionary funding for VA health care to improve patient access and timeliness of medical care services for over nine million enrolled veterans.

This funding would enable the VA to provide a broad range of primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services to enrolled veterans, including services that are uniquely related to veterans’ health and special needs.

3. Extend and fund the Veterans Choice Program to ensure that every eligible veteran continues to have the choice to seek care at VA or through a private provider.

Without action, this critical program will expire in August 2017, which would result in veterans having fewer choices of where to receive care.

4. Support VA programs that provide services to homeless and at-risk veterans and their families to help keep them safe and sheltered.

5. Provide access to education benefits, enhanced services, and other programs to assist veterans’ transition to civilian life.

VA partners with other agencies to provide critical training, support services, and counseling throughout a veteran’s transition and their post-military career.

In addition, the VA can continue to make crucial investments toward optimizing productivity and transforming their claims process.  It’s no secret that this has been an area of weakness in the VA and this added budget could reduce the time required to process veterans’ disability compensation claims.

Finally, the budget proposal requests that the VA use these funds to continue to invest in information technology to improve the efficiency of VA services.  This includes modernization initiatives that would improve the quality of services provided to veterans and avoid the unnecessary costs of maintaining outdated and inefficient systems.

It should be noted that President Trump’s budget proposal only acts as blueprint for the next fiscal year.  Ultimately, Congress will still have to draft a formal budget, but the President’s proposal acts as an indication of where his priorities lie for the years to come.

For more information on President Trump’s budget proposal and how it will effect the Veterans Affairs, visit the America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again